Children And Miscarriage Or Still Birth
When parents lose a baby through miscarriage or still birth, there is the additional challenge of protecting existing children from the fallout of grief. Some parents are reluctant to talk with young children about the loss of the pregnancy, particularly if the children didn't yet know about the new baby. However, even very small children can pick up on their parents' sadness and pain, and conventional wisdom says it's best to offer some explanation. In the end, only you and your partner can decide what is right for your family.
Will Telling Them Help?
Psychologists say an honest but careful explanation helps children to understand what is going on in their environment. Without it, young children in particular, can become anxious about your change of mood. They may think Mommy and Daddy are sad because they have done something wrong, and blame themselves. This anxiety could lead to disturbed eating and sleeping patterns, which creates additional stress as you struggle to come to terms with your loss.
Explaining Miscarriage Or Still Birth
How you tell your children will depend on their ages, personalities, and how much they already understand. With very young children, you may be introducing the concepts of death or pregnancy for the first time. In this case, it's best to explain in simple language that the baby has died, what that means, and why it happened (if you know). Avoid vague or adult language that may be confusing.
If you don't know why your baby died, you should say so clearly. In this case, it's even more important to reassure your children that it's not their fault (particularly if your child was showing signs of jealousy or not wanting the baby) and in the longer term, to address any fears about future pregnancies. A good analogy can be found in your garden. In spring people plant many flowers in their gardens, and most of them grow - but some don't, it's nobody's fault and nobody knows why.
Young children may be upset and clingy, or show no obvious signs of sadness. They may not understand the permanency of death and you might have to repeat your explanation several times. Slightly older children might be afraid that you or they could die too, and they will need reassurance. They may also display uncharacteristic behavior at home or at school. Although older children may be more able to comfort you, don't be surprised if teenagers are sullen and withdrawn.
Everyone should feel entitled to their emotions. You should let your children know that it's OK to talk about the baby and cry if they need to (and this includes Mommy and Daddy). If you decide to hold a remembrance ceremony, consider involving the children in the event. This gives them a focus for their feelings and may help them to understand what has happened.
When It Gets Too Much
If you feel that your family is seriously struggling to recover from a miscarriage or a still birth, and that you children are being affected, seek help from your health care provider. Losing a child is one of the most painful of all life experiences, and no one should have to go it alone.